A few years ago, David Weinberger wrote a piece about what he called “leeway” – the need for rules-based systems to have fuzzy edges if they are to work sensibly.
One way of looking at the DWP modernisation programme is as a series of measures which reduce or eliminate leeway. Some of that was intentional, but it is clear that there are many unintended consequences. Some of those remove vital lubrication from the system – the ability of intermediaries to make contact with relatively well-informed people to discuss difficult cases, for example. Some of the key systems are becoming much more brittle – and brittle things tend to break.
So the challenge is to get the efficiency savings from slicker and more standardised processes, while not losing (or reducing further) capacity for responsiveness to individual customers.